In a sense Luc Besson‘s Lucy (Universal, 7.25) is a brighter, crazier, grabbier version of Under The Skin as it basically gives Scarlett Johansson another turn as a dangerous alien of sorts — a blank-faced lady with exceptional, unearthly powers who gives everyone and everything an odd, head-tilted look…pretty much the same routine (“Hmmm, what is this odd phenomenon? I need to study it more closely”) that Jeff Bridges used in John Carpenter‘s Starman. Towards the end she’s also playing, in a certain sense, the cyber-being she voice-acted in Spike Jonze‘s Her in that she eventually becomes strongly focused on the Great Spiritual Beyond.
ScarJo starts out as an average, none-too-bright American, living for some reason in Taipei and terrified half to death when Taiwanese (or are they Korean?) gangsters nab her when she delivers an attache case on behalf of some greasy sleazebag she’s idiotically chosen to be a friend. They anesthetize her and surgically insert a bag some kind of blue-crystal stuff called CPH4 into her stomach. But when the bag inevitably breaks open (you were expecting otherwise?) ScarJo becomes a kind of T-1000 superwoman. The CPH4 has unlocked her brainpower and given her greater and greater physical abilities, almost Neo-like.
Once she’s broken away from (i.e., wasted) her Taiwanese captors she’s off to Paris, largely because Besson lives there but also because genetic scientist and scholarly backstory-explainer Morgan Freeman is based there. Then we’re in for some more hyper-drive action sequences and visually nutso (i.e., far-reaching) CG delirium.
Lucy’s T-1000 abilities (she can’t turn herself into gelatin or assume the appearance of others but otherwise she’s quite formidable) means she’s now an unstoppable killing machine as well as a growth-obsessed go-getter who needs to ingest more and more of the CPH4…forget it, doesn’t matter.
If any recent movie is CG-driven, Lucy is. Besson and his homies want to show us a lot of “ooh-wow” stuff, and so they put it into the script at every opportunity. I’m presuming they constructed a whammy chart while writing the script. It’s that kind of movie. It’s a movie that says “you can take a bathroom break whenever you like.”
On one hand Lucy is the kind of tediously frenetic CG action exercise that Quentin Tarantino or Eli Roth or any fan of super-hyper violence would fall for in a New York minute. But on the other hand it occasionally veers into trippy-ass visual realms that…well, at least they make the watching less arduous. And at least it’s relatively short (i.e, 88 minutes). You sit down with your popcorn and your lethargy and it’s like “oh, God, oh Jesus, here comes the same old bullshit” but then you start saying to yourself “but at least with a few trippy dipshit diversions along the way!”
Movies like this were made for the Drew McWeeny mature-fanboy mentality. (Quote: “I am in the tank for the way Besson tells stories…he’s got a knack for detail that wouldn’t occur to anyone else…he’s got a signature, one of the things that I love most about filmmakers, and I’ve missed it.”)
Besson-the-fantasist has delivered another serving of cartoonish female kickbutt jizz-whizz that uses a semi-imaginative, micro-cellular, La Femme Nikita-meets-Matrix-meets-2001 undercurrent about super-cranked brainpower and biological transcendence and, well, the myriad opportunities that such imaginings afford guys looking to jam-pack their films with knockout CG. Except you need to turn your brain off for at least half the running time to get through it.
If Besson had just figured out a way to get into the trippy stuff without adhering to the stupid-ass Taiwanese (or Korean?) gangster-cyborg shoot-em-up crap, I would have had a better time with it. But Besson needs the Taiwanese/Korean heavies to kick the plot off. Did you know that some gangsters are so wildly psychotic and unconcerned with standard law enforcement practices that they sometimes shoot guys to death in swanky hotel lobbies (right through a window!) and then saunter back up to their room? (“If the cops come please tell them we’ll be busy…tell them to wait in the lobby”).
Trust me, Besson doesn’t care about anything except providing a 2014 version of the standard adrenalized rush that the apes often pay to see. He spent a lot of money on this thing, and the idea, obviously, is to make a lot of money back. Just call him Luc “looking for a payday so I can put money into my film school” Besson.
God, I hate watching Asians in goosed-up action scenes in films of this sort. I hate it when Asian actors shoot, ballet-dance, neck-chop and kick the hell out of each other or some other antagonist. When I come into a film like this and I notice it has Asian actors I go “oh, God…here we go.” In an action-movie context, I consider their presence to be nothing sort of a plague. I know what “Asian actors in an action film” means as surely as “dippy-looking Indian actors in a Bollywood film” means. It means I’m going to be put through hell.
Lucy is an ambitiously designed, stupidly thoughtful cranked-up wank. But is it a tank? At least it’s not a total blank.